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Easy to Assemble Meals

On busy weeknights, healthy food choices can be tossed out the window in favor of junk foods. Learn how a little creative planning can help you get good food on the table in a flash.

With school starting and evening activities ramping up, it can be a real challenge to put a decent dinner on the table. No wonder many parents turn to fast foods and junk foods. When time is of the essence, healthy food choices are often tossed out the window in favor of fast foods and junk foods. But with a little creative planning, you can get good food on the table in a flash.

For the convenience of fast food without compromising good nutrition, add naturally prepared foods to your menu plan – foods that you can keep on hand in your pantry or freezer and others that you can pick up from your local Whole Foods Market’s salad bar and prepared foods department. Here are a few things you might want to keep on hand for super-quick suppers:

  • Jarred pasta sauce

  • Boxed natural macaroni and cheese

  • Ready-to-eat pre-baked, marinated tofu

  • Assorted pasta shapes, couscous and quick cooking polenta

  • Organic corn taco shells

  • Precooked frozen rice

  • Frozen fruits

  • Frozen vegetables

  • Canned beans

  • Canned tomatoes

  • Natural cold-cuts

  • Free-range eggs

  • Rotisserie chicken

  • Cooked salmon filet from Prepared Foods

  • Cold grain salads

  • Prepared grilled seasonal veggies

  • Prepared soups such as split pea, chicken noodle and lentil

And here are some ideas for whipping up quick meals:

  • Shop the salad bar for greens, chopped raw veggies, coleslaw and other salad-bar items. Add to easy-to-prepare pantry items like quick-cooking grains (quinoa, basmati rice or couscous), or canned beans.

  • Cook pasta from your pantry. Heat frozen veggies in jarred sauce and top with ready-to-eat tofu or cheese.

  • Make really quick soup with organic vegetable or chicken broth, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes and beans, and a handful of frozen, cooked brown or white rice.

  • Make bean salad with canned beans, cut veggies from the salad bar, and a favorite bottled all-natural salad dressing.

  • Honor the ever-popular sandwich — pile up some good hearty bread with hummus, cheese and natural, nitrate-free cold cuts for a super simple, super good supper. On cold nights, serve with some heated prepared soup.

  • Make quick polenta. Add jarred tomato sauce, tofu or feta cheese and a lovely green salad.

  • Scramble eggs and serve with cooked polenta or couscous. Add frozen veggies or a prepared green salad. Or top cooked eggs with jarred pasta sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

  • Heat prepared soups and serve with cold grain salads or whole grain rolls and some fresh salad bar veggies.

  • Make rotisserie chicken wraps – try spinach or whole wheat wraps. Add avocado slices and plenty of salad bar veggies.

  • Make tacos stuffed with canned beans, prepared guacamole and salsa.

You can also take a favorite recipe and “tweak” it for ease and convenience. Here’s what I mean:

  • Roasted Salmon and Grapes – chop fennel or onion and toss with olive oil and salt or a favorite salad dressing. Use as a generous topping for pre-cooked salmon.

  • Chicken Piccata – Simply cook the capers with broth, wine and lemon juice as directed. Add pre-cooked chicken breasts, warm and serve.

  • Colorful Grilled Tofu Sandwiches – make the recipe just as described with marinated, baked tofu. Saves time and tastes great!

  • Brown Rice Salad – If you purchase the veggies from the salad bar and grab a bag of cooked brown rice from the freezer, you can put this recipe together in no time flat.

  • Sautéed Shrimp and Couscous Dinner – Purchase cooked shrimp; toss with ready-to-eat salad greens and your favorite vinaigrette. Serve over couscous and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

What are your tricks and favorite ways to get a healthy dinner on the table quickly? We’d love to know.

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